The right wing media are staging another one of their absurd freak-out sessions, this time pretending to be gravely offended by the use of wire coat hangers as a symbol of illegal abortion.
And rarely have I read such a truly despicable example of anti-choice propaganda as Kevin D. Williamson’s disgusting attempt to mansplain and deny this bloody history in the National Review: The Symbol of a Lie.
Warning: this is some really sick thinking.
But first a word of praise for the DC Abortion Fund: The group at least has the intellectual integrity to put the word “abortion” right there in the middle of its name — no NARAL-style “choice” euphemisms for this merry band of butchers. Valerie Solanas had her Society for Cutting Up Men, and nobody would be better pleased than I if Cecile Richards et al. embraced their true identity: The Society for Cutting Up Mankind.
Alec Torres noted this exercise in horrifyingly bad taste on the Corner, and the subsequent response on talk radio and elsewhere inspired the DC Abortion Fund to publish an apologia pro carnificibus titled “The Coat Hanger as a Symbol, and Why Abortion Access Matters,” which reads in part: “The coat hanger is a symbol of the reproductive justice movement because lack of access to abortion causes women to go to desperate lengths to terminate a pregnancy, similar to those undertaken in the pre-Roe vs. Wade era. At that time, consuming Lysol and household poisons was not uncommon to instigate abortion. Nor was inserting knitting needles, Coke bottles, and — yes — wire coat hangers into their cervices.”
That is untrue. It has long been known to be untrue. The wire hanger is indeed a powerful symbol — the symbol of a lie engineered with malice aforethought.
Where’s Williamson’s evidence that women never used coat hangers to perform abortions? Well, he has none. That’s right, he offers not a single piece of evidence for this categorical denial.
And refuting this dishonest, horrible piece of work is incredibly simple. All we have to do is read the history and testimonials from those who were there.
For example, this 2008 essay in the New York Times by retired gynecologist Waldo L. Fielding: Doctor Recalls Abortion Complications Before Roe v. Wade.
I am a retired gynecologist, in my mid-80s. My early formal training in my specialty was spent in New York City, from 1948 to 1953, in two of the city’s large municipal hospitals.
There I saw and treated almost every complication of illegal abortion that one could conjure, done either by the patient herself or by an abortionist — often unknowing, unskilled and probably uncaring. Yet the patient never told us who did the work, or where and under what conditions it was performed. She was in dire need of our help to complete the process or, as frequently was the case, to correct what damage might have been done.
The patient also did not explain why she had attempted the abortion, and we did not ask. This was a decision she made for herself, and the reasons were hers alone. Yet this much was clear: The woman had put herself at total risk, and literally did not know whether she would live or die.
This, too, was clear: Her desperate need to terminate a pregnancy was the driving force behind the selection of any method available.
The familiar symbol of illegal abortion is the infamous “coat hanger” — which may be the symbol, but is in no way a myth. In my years in New York, several women arrived with a hanger still in place. Whoever put it in — perhaps the patient herself — found it trapped in the cervix and could not remove it.
We did not have ultrasound, CT scans or any of the now accepted radiology techniques. The woman was placed under anesthesia, and as we removed the metal piece we held our breath, because we could not tell whether the hanger had gone through the uterus into the abdominal cavity. Fortunately, in the cases I saw, it had not.
In a long tradition of shameful right wing propaganda, the National Review has outdone themselves with this one. What the hell is wrong with these people?